Two guys walk into a bar…one is vaxed, the other one goes home
Starting on October 25th, you will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccine for indoor dining, drinking and at gyms and events in King County, Washington. Those without proof of vaccine will need to show a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours. This decision was made to keep communities safe with King County reporting high rates of COVID-19 hospital admissions and fatalities, noted here on the Washington State Department of Health COVID-19 Data Dashboard. The mandate does not apply to outdoor dining, take-out or grocery stores, and customers can provide proof by showing their vaccination card, a photo of their vaccination card, QR code from the state’s vaccine records or a vaccine record from a healthcare provider.
Throughout the pandemic, Wallingford businesses have demonstrated tenacious creativity. Staying afloat through closures and evolving regulations has taken grit and shown heart – both already quintessential characteristics of favorite Wallingford watering holes. I sat down with the business owners at both the Octopus Bar and Murphy’s Pub to learn more about the year behind and the path ahead.
Opening in 1981, Murphy’s is the oldest Irish bar in Seattle. The current owners, Chelley and Phil, purchased the pub from Murphy’s second owners in 2014. Along with business partner, Eamonn and head chef, Lupe, they have been earnestly serving patrons in Wallingford ever since. As a neighbor and customer, it’s neither the crisp cider, nor the tuna melt that keep me coming back – it’s the people. Murphy’s staff and patrons are inviting and warm. Whether I’m in with my friends on a Friday night or my toddlers on a Saturday morning, I have been greeted with kindness (and a few cheeky jokes). How gut-wrenching it must have been, when the pub shut down in March of 2020 due to COVID-19, for Phil and Chelley to put all but 4 employees on stand-by, operating with a bare-bones team as they rode out the unknown storm of the pandemic.
The Octopus Bar, a nautical novelty, serving curated cocktails and eats in a festive and casual setting, has a strong, spirited and loyal employee team. Moving to a new Wallingford space in the midst of uncertainty has made innovation a mainstay for this crew. Pandemic-related supply chain challenges hit hard – specifically when it came to getting food, beverage and supply orders filled. Trevor and Liza recalled times when beer, tequila and cutlery were completely unavailable. With an unwavering commitment to the community at large, Liza and Trevor spoke about their desire to survive, but also to see their fellow Wallingford bars, restaurants and shops find a way forward. In an effort to keep patrons and employees safe, the Octopus began requiring proof of vaccine on August 1. Most bar-goers have been supportive of this request, which will soon go from a choice to a mandate. Liza Danger shared that they will never be done adopting “Throw me a curveball!”, she challenged.
Refusing to Sink
This sense of innovation and deep spirit of resiliency have been paramount during the months of pandemic closure and ever-changing restriction. The Octopus Bar created the Salty Shack, a walk-up window selling absurdly delicious sandwiches and to-go drinks. This helped sustain the business during the months of pandemic closure. To keep things going, Murphy’s served take-out food and growlers of beer. Be it the luck of the Irish or the legend of the octopus, these neighborhood staples are open for our business and more inviting than ever.
As if Brunch and Cribbage Aren’t Enough…
Both pubs are eager to see the pandemic recede, and the community pour back into booths and barstools. Liza and Trevor described an energy in the Octopus these days that is hopeful and almost electric. People are excited to be back out, to connect with friends and to enjoy a cocktail or some tots. Chelley was gleaming with gratitude as she told me about a couple of Friday night Murphy’s regulars who, throughout the pandemic, routinely purchased $500 gift cards even with no place to spend them.
Getting Back Out There
As long-time brunch enthusiast, hearing Chelley’s plea to get back to a life with eggs and mimosas was all the encouragement I needed. Tuesday trivia fills up quickly, but other events and brunch hours have plenty of space for those who are fully vaxed and ready to venture out. Murphy’s Monthly Events Calendar details events including brunch, trivia, and live Irish session music.
The Octopus Bar Events Page boasts tequila nights, karaoke, DJs, game night (Uno, anyone?), bingo, cribbage, space for special events and sports watch parties.
Both pubs are eager to greet us (with proof of vaccine), as we finally step away from months of Zoom calls and venture out to share a pint and make eye contact with real, live community members.
As fall hits, I am enjoying the ability to drink/dine outdoors and hope to clink my glass to yours one day soon!